DESK REVIEWS | The proportion of the population that is physically inactive?

DESK REVIEW | The proportion of the population that is physically inactive?

According to the most recent version of the National Health Survey (PNS 2013, in Portuguese), 46.0% of the Brazilian population above 18 years were physically inactive (‘physically inactive’ defined as people who did not practice physical activity or who did practice it for less than 150 minutes per week, considering three domains: leisure, work, and commuting). Among people aged 60 and over, the proportion was 62.7%. In general, women showed higher proportions than men, varying from 50.3% in the Southern region to 53.4% in the Northern region. White people were more likely to be inactive (47.9%), compared to black (42.4%), and mixed race people (44.8%) (Brazilian Ministry of Health, 2013b).


Brazilian Ministry of Health. (2013b). Pesquisa Nacional de Saúde 2013: Percepção do estado de saúde, estilos de vida e doenças crônicas.

According to the population health survey in 2014/2015, 13.0% of people aged 18 and above (14.2% for females and 11.6% for males) had insufficient physical activity according to WHO’s definition. The prevalence was the highest among people aged 85 and above at 36.1% (Centre for Health Protection, 2017).


Centre for Health Protection. (2017). Report of Population Health Survey 2014/15. Retrieved from

According to an ICMR-INDIAB study (Anjana et al., 2014), physical activity was assessed using the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire (GPAQ) in 14,227 individuals aged above 20 years across 4 parts of India – Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Chandigarh, representing the south, west, east, and north of India, respectively. In this study, of the 14,227 individuals studied, 54.4% (n = 7,737) were found to be inactive (Anjana et al., 2014). A more recent study analysed data of around 2 lakh individuals from the Niyantrita Madhumeha Bharata 2017 randomised cluster survey and reported that 20% of the sample were physically inactive (Podder et al., 2020).


Anjana, R. M., Pradeepa, R., Das, A. K., Deepa, M., Bhansali, A., Joshi, S. R., … & Subashini, R. (2014). Physical activity and inactivity patterns in India–results from the ICMR-INDIAB study (Phase-1) [ICMR-INDIAB-5]. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 11(1), 26.

Podder, V., Nagarathna, R., Anand, A., Patil, S. S., Singh, A. K., & Nagendra, H. R. (2020). Physical activity patterns in India stratified by zones, age, region, BMI, and implications for COVID-19: a nationwide study. Annals of Neurosciences27(3-4), 193-203.

It is estimated that 33.5% of the national population were categorised as physically inactive (defined as a cumulative physical activities less than 150 minutes per week) (Ministry of Health Republic of Indonesia, 2018).


Ministry of Health Republic of Indonesia. (2018). Riset Kesehatan Dasar 2018. Jakarta: Lembaga Penerbit Badan Penelitian dan Pengembangan Kesehatan. Available at:


The Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey III (Ministry of Health Jamaica, 2018) estimated that 82% of Jamaicans engage in low physical activity, 16% engage in moderate activity (minimum WHO recommendations) and 2% in high level activity. The survey did not find a significant age or gender difference. However, younger persons (below 60 years) within urban communities were more likely to make attempts to exercise.


Ministry of Health Jamaica. (2018). Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey III: Preliminary Findings.

Based on the global report on physical activity that was released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018, 15.4% (13.9% for males and 16.8% for females) of adult Kenyans are not as active as per the recommended 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity by WHO (Guthold et al., 2018).


Guthold, R., Stevens, G. A., Riley, L. M., & Bull, F. C. (2018). Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1· 9 million participants. The Lancet Global Health, 6(10), e1077–e1086.

While it is widely acknowledged that the Mexican population in general is not very physically active, not much data is available to confirm this. Since 2013, INEGI started to collect data through the Sport and Physical Activity Module[1] (MOPRADEF) and in 2017 it was approved as a key indicator in the design and evaluation of public policies and is now part of INEGI’s National Catalogue of Indicators. The latest report from MOPRADEF in 2017 (INEGI, 2018c) shows that only 42.4% of population 18 years and older practices some sport in their spare time or is physically active[2], showing a slight decrease since 2013 (45.4%) when data was first gathered. Men reported being more active (49.8%) than women (36.0%) and as age increases, people reported being less physically active.

[1] Módulo de Práctica Deportiva y Ejercicio Físico MOPRADEF;

[2] Sufficient physical-sport activity was defined as practicing some sport or physical activity at least three times a week, accumulating at least 75 minutes of vigorous or 150 minutes of moderate intensity per week.


INEGI. (2018c). Módulo de Práctica Deportiva y Ejercicio Físico.

It is estimated that 27.9% of men and 45.2% of women in South Africa are physically inactive (Byrne et al., 2016). For South African 50 years and older, 60.5% are involved in low, 10.9% in moderate, and 28.6% in high physical activity (Peltzer K & Phaswana-Mafuya, 2012).


Byrne, J., Eksteen, G., & Crickmore, C. (2016). Cardiovascular Disease Statistics Reference Document. Available from:

Peltzer K & Phaswana-mafuya, N. (2012). Physical inactivity and associated factors in older adults in South Africa. African Journal of Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance, 6018.